Time heals everything. This holds true with the heated rivalry between the Chicago Bulls’ Michael Jordan and the Detroit Pistons’ Isaiah Thomas. The NBA fans from the late ‘80s were witness to this enmity between the two legends of their time.
MJ’s Netflix documentary, The Last Dance, vividly captured this feud. Both Michael and Isiah came with explanations to iron out differences and tried to make their point. But the issue was way too complex to reach an agreement so easily.
Recently, in an interview, Isaiah Thomas cleared his stance on the age-old rivalry. He aimed his words at MJ, expressing, “I’m not afraid of anybody. I’ll sit down and speak with anyone. Anyone who’s been around me. I’m not one who walks around with fear.”
However, the two-time NBA Champion also applied a bandaid on the wound. He later added, “You wish everybody could experience it but, the champion who does… that’s what makes LeBron James, Jordan, and Kareem, Magic, myself, Bird… once you get that feeling, you don’t want anybody else to have it.”
Now, this interview can be viewed as Isiah’s initiative to ease out the issues that consumed their relationship.
The tension between the two champions goes way back to 1985. It was during that year’s All-star game where both Isiah and MJ were representing the Eastern Conference. Air Jordan was just one year into the league, but the expectations from him were high. To everyone’s surprise, MJ could manage just 7 points in his 22 minutes of play.
On the contrary, Isaiah added 22 points of his own. The fans tagged that game as a “freezeout” and many blamed Isiah for allegedly not allowing MJ to perform in that game.
Later, in the late ‘80s, the Pistons and the Bulls picked great rivalry. It was more of the Jordan era vs the Bad Boys of basketball. The beef took a nasty turn when the Pistons lost to the Bulls 0-4 in the 1991 Eastern Conference finals. Isaiah and many other teammates left the court abruptly, without shaking hands with their rivals. This forced their rivalry into a point of no return.
Isiah had earlier picked LeBron James over MJ in the GOAT conversation. But he also is a great admirer of Michael Jordan. Today, it seems quite possible that the two can finally get back to becoming friends.
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